Front Page Titles (by Subject) 56.: On the Coming of the Reformation: The Reformation and the Fate of Art - Judgments on History and Historians
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56.: On the Coming of the Reformation: The Reformation and the Fate of Art - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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On the Coming of the Reformation: The Reformation and the Fate of Art
At this point we must bid farewell to German art which at that very time seemed to be in the most glorious ferment before the consummation it was destined for. The fact that all the famous artists, starting with Dürer, were for the Reformation was probably in part due to their hatred of a high clergy which spent its enormous endowments on anything rather than the commissioning of altar works.
The Reformation deprived art not only of its main subjects, but also of true naïveté, which probably would have maintained itself merely because of the penetration of the Renaissance. It was as though one had suddenly prohibited the Greeks in the highest early flowering of their art from depicting their myths and left them only portraits, historical subjects, and genre painting (cf. Islam’s prohibition of painting). The still unbroken strength of the Germans would have succeeded entirely in assimilating the Renaissance and blending it with the great Italian art; there would have been no half-style as in the Netherlands. In addition, in many regions there was outright destruction of paintings.
Since only very few were able to participate seriously and inwardly in the suddenly demanded sublime emphasis on ethics in religion and, at the same time, there was a general and very sharp split into parties, a feeling of inward pressure and a timid reserve became characteristic for those intellectuals on whose support art ordinarily depended. If people had no more sensible arguments against paintings, as, e.g., Zwingli and Leo Jud at the Zurich main dispute of 1523, they said that the admissibility of paintings could not be demonstrated from the Bible and that was why they had to go.
A decisive factor was that even in the areas which had nominally remained Catholic, Protestantism for many decades actually dominated the minds of men, at least of the non-peasants. Whether it went deep is a matter of indifference. Church art came to a standstill there, too, so that later, with the Counter Reformation, Italian art immediately gained predominance.
The change in people is very strikingly revealed through portraits. At the beginning of the sixteenth century there prevails in paintings and sepulchral sculptures the utmost openness and strength; from 1530 on everything appears dammed up and anxious.
That, basically, artistic feeling and joy in the beautification of life had not ceased is shown by the architecture and ornamentation of the German Renaissance.
Come to think of it, aside from some boasting about Dürer, whom probably everyone would have liked to do his portrait, German humanism had even before the Reformation been rather hostile to art, or at least completely aloof from it, as were the philosophers in antiquity. In reference to the luxurious tomb of Thomas à Becket and the marble splendor of the Certosa di Pavia, Erasmus preaches the most insipid “charity,” saying that the money ought to have been given to the poor and that flowers were sufficient adornment for a saint’s grave. (The poor of the time would soon have consumed the money concerned, and we would not possess the Certosa, etc.) Then Erasmus polemicizes against the artistic embellishment of noble graves in the churches generally.